2013 and 2014 GOLDEN HEART® Finalist

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wednesday Writing-- Help Others, Help Yourself

It's been said that we're our own worst critics. Well, I'm certainly not my best critic, and I proved that when I began trying to get my first MS published.  No, I didn't send out the first draft without revisions. I actually spent a few months revising until I thought I had it perfect.  Thought.  Thankfully, I sent out only five rather ineffective query letters that got no requests for partials.  Because my MS wasn't ready-- not even close. Truth is, it's hard to know that when it's just you, or even a few well-meaning non-writer friends telling you that your MS is as good as it can be, as good as it needs to be to be published.

If you're lucky, you have great crit partners who can and will point out what's good and what's not working.  If you're really lucky, you'll also get the best kind of advice -- that is, advice from the people who know exactly what it takes to grab the attention of literary agents and eventually readers.  Who are these people?  Well, authors who've already made it out of query purgatory, and agents who day in and day out, see hundreds of queries and sample pages.

Sure, you're saying, that would be super-duper, but if I don't already have a friend who's published or an agent, how can I possibly persuade these founts of knowledge to read my work and point me in the right direction? 

Answer: Brenda Novak's Annual Auction for the Cure of Diabetes  This is an unbelievable opportunity for authors, and it begins soon.
Brenda with her son, Thad
Brenda and her son, her inspiration for the auction.

I participated last year and accidentally won two of the auctions.  I was hoping to win an agent critique of my query letter, synposis, and first three chapters. There were many of those critique packages offered, and I stalked several of them, focusing on agents who were actively aquiring Young Adult novels.  I never thought I'd end up with the high bid on two of them, but I'm so glad I did.  It wasn't cheap, but it was invaluable (and it's a tax-deductible charitable donation, if that helps).

I followed the instructions I was given after winning, and, full of hope, shipped off my critique submission to agent Laura Bradford first.  She promised to get back to me quickly and she did.  Naturally, I hoped she'd contact me and say something along the lines of "it's amazing, don't change and thing, and by the way, I'd love to represent you".  That did not happen.  We had a twenty or thirty minute phone conversation and she sent a detailed written critique. 

I'm not going to lie and say it didn't hurt.  But... it was that good day-after-a-tough-cardio-class kind of pain.  Well, at first it was just painful pain, but after I'd put away my notes from the phone conversation and the critique for a few weeks, I was able to take them out again and really start benefitting.  Ms. Bradford was extremely polite, and extremely direct about where my MS wasn't working.  I never doubted for a minute that she was absolutely correct.  I'm a new author-- she spends every day evaluating the effectiveness and marketability of writing.  I started revising based on her notes, and a couple months later, sent my package off to agent Naomi Hackenberg of the Elaine English Literary Agency for the second critique I won.

According to her evaluation, I still didn't have it all perfect, but soooo much better.  Ms. Hackenberg had many good things to say about my writing, and also more constructive criticism for me.  Very encouraging, very helpful.  Having access to these two knowledgable people on the other side of the process put me forward perhaps years in the writing-for-publication process. Without it, I don't know how long I would have languished with my mistake-riddled MS, thinking it was fine.  And because they were who they were, I listened and learned from them.

This year's auction begins May 1st.  There are some great items for readers and, especially of interest to many of us, for writers.  At last check, there are 59 author critiques up for bidding and 38 agent evaluations, plus editor evaluations, networking opportunites, and so much more. Check it out for yourself!


By bidding you can help find a cure for diabetes and help yourself in the process. I guarantee it can't hurt!

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